Bo Bichette’s defense still isn’t great, but it is much improved as of late

Toronto Blue Jays v Minnesota Twins - Bo Bichette
Toronto Blue Jays v Minnesota Twins - Bo Bichette / Brace Hemmelgarn/GettyImages

Toronto Blue Jays shortstop Bo Bichette once again is having a strong season at the plate, with many people taking notice of it as his consistent performance year in and year out has propelled him more and more towards super stardom. But what has been less evident is the fact that Bichette has actually made some progress in improving his defensive side of the game as well so far this year.

In years past, when it comes to envisioning Bichette and defence together in the same sentence, the first thing that comes to mind is his wild throws to first base, resulting in an acrobatic Vladimir Guerrero save, or a costly error that usually came back to haunt the Jays.

Here is a typical throw from Bichette, as Jays’ fans everywhere would close their eyes to hope for the best each time the ball is launched:

However, Bichette has taken massive strides in reducing the number of throwing errors this year, especially of late, as his throws have been more accurate and providing much more steadier defence, passing the eye test. At least the fans are seeing far less Guerrero stretches and splits at first base to the point of potentially injuring himself in recent weeks.

Looking more closely at the numbers, Bichette has drastically improved in terms of DRS, going from -16 last year to already a +2 this year. Not only that, he had been averaging close to 25 errors in each of the past two seasons with a fielding percentage close to .960 (this of course doesn’t include the number of errand throws saved by Guerrero at first just to keep it that low). However, so far in 2023, he has committed only four errors and is currently on pace for only 10 in total over the entire season, together with a fielding percentage close to .980. Even more impressive apparently is that he has quietly put together a string of errorless games since May 10th that most people were not aware of.

If taking a look at the advanced metrics as per Baseball Savant, Bichette is currently in the 47th percentile for Outs Above Average (OAA), after constantly being below the 10th percentile the past two seasons. He was often in the negative (i.e. below average) for his OAA for most of his career, but this year he is currently at 0, which is average (i.e. acceptable).

Another interesting stat comes from his Arm Strength rating. It has been on a steady decline since 2021, from the 69th percentile, down to 46th percentile last year, and currently only the 30th percentile this year. A decreasing arm strength trend doesn’t necessary mean Bichette is doing worse on defence. For Bichette, since his throws have often been wild in the past, by decreasing the velocity/strength of his throws to first base, it could actually be beneficial to him in providing more accuracy to his throws instead. Think former Jays shortstop Tony Fernandez, his throws were never bullets, but instead he slowly lofted/tossed the ball with extreme accuracy. So Bichette may have adjusted his throwing mechanics to focus more on accuracy rather than brute power in wake of his improvement in his defensive ability.

Nevertheless, it is great to see that Bichette is slowly but steadily improving on his only main flaw to his game so far in his MLB career. If he could make defence become one of his strengths eventually down the road, he literally will be an unstoppable force for the Blue Jays for many years to come.